Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Challenge Song

Over the past couple of nights here we've had a drama unfolding. Maybe not big in the grand scheme of things, but to our ears and in our small little world it's huge.

A new male coyote has come to town. For the past couple of nights we've heard his challenge song around 5am. As it's still fairly warm here, we sleep with our windows open and this newcomer (I call him "Bub") has wakened us up each night.

Up on the rim of the valley we're in, the local pack holds a nightly serenade, normally just around or after sunset. It's a very social time for them. Coyote packs are normally small family units consisting of mother, father, and last year's pups. They howl together as a social event, to locate members of the pack who have gone hunting, or (apparently) just for the fun of it.

We're still a couple of months off before mating season, but Bub is apparently a persistent newcomer. The first night he woke me up by howling his challenge down in the creek bed. It's a very aggressive, short howl followed by a trilling noise. It's unmistakable once you've heard it. When you're laying in bed at 5am and you hear it within a couple of hundred yards, it will chill your blood.

The pack answers Bub with a series of aggressive barks and shortened howls. I think they're telling him "Come get some, punk" because they go on back and forth like this for a little while. Bub is calling out the adult male in the pack and the pack is calling for Bub to come up to the ridgeline to fight like a man ... er ... coyote.

Last night I heard Bub far off beyond the ridge instead of down in the valley with us. He may be moving off to find some other territory. Not sure, but the noise factor seems to be dying down. We'll see tonight.

On a sadder note, one of our cats is missing. She was a rather pampered housecat we brought with us from Illinois. She had taken to roaming around outside at night and was becoming harder and harder to keep inside. As any cat owner knows, keeping a cat inside who doesn't want to be inside is a real challenge. Nothing short of an airlock will do. She has been gone about 4 nights now and almost all hope of her safe return is gone.

Normally the local pack of coyotes stays up on the valley rim. We don't see them down on our place or hear them. I've only once found their scat on the far side of the pond. However, I think Bub might not have been so accomodating. If our cat roamed too far from the house, she might have been caught by an opportunistic coyote and been unable to move fast enough to get to a tree. She liked to go into the treeline and mill around, but I hadn't observed her going out too far before. Speculation is useless but as anyone who has ever had a missing cat knows, it can't hardly be helped.

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